Last night in Abuja, the ‘heavens’ literally ‘kissed the earth’ when the spokesman and ‘magician’ of the House of Representatives, Hon Benjamin Kalu once again mounted the podium to receive yet another Award of excellence as the Most Outstanding Rep Member of the year in Nigeria by Democracy Heroes Award Africa. Flanked by friends notably Chief Daniel Akwari and Chief Ikenna Ariwodo amongst others and in a glittering and well attended ceremony, Hon Benjamin Kalu beamed with satisfaction as his accomplishments were brought before the global audience for recognition.
For seven months short of four years in office, the Bende export to Abuja seem to have outdone and surprised all sceptics especially at home to confirm that he actually came to serve. And yet, it does seem he is not done yet performing. Popular affirmation across Bende expresses shock that road after road are regularly completed courtesy of the honorable member because before now, it was heresy to think this is possible. So I am tempted to ask or probably interrogate if there is a verifiable nexus between received Awards and performance in public office.
I have travelled very well across the globe including to the land where we borrowed Democracy. I have also been privileged to observe at close quarters how even congressmen and lower public officers relate with their constituents in terms of attending to their concerns. Even the lowest of offices like the counties that you may liken to our local governments, also do respond to the concerns of residents.
Since 1999 to date, it was only in 2019 that Bende got it right with Benjamin Kalu who is usually forthcoming and nosy in finding out the concerns of his constituents even when he might not be able to provide succor immediately. I was putting up in a particular axis in downtown Atlanta in the US and witnessed a couple of residents of a drive/street raise concern one particular morning about what we might consider an insignificant ‘pothole’ in Nigeria. When I came back in the evening, that particular spot had disappeared. In my quiet times, I engage in mental exercise reflecting why we are the way we are and if we can ever change. Listening and feeling for the people is a virtue worth emulating by all.
Several times during the campaigns leading to the 2019 elections, I had journeyed to many communities with Hon. Ben Kalu and others to woo rural folks for votes. Across Bende, I remember vividly the pains of anguish on Benjamin Kalu’s face as we meandered our way to Nkpa especially atop the creaky and dilapidated Eme – Nkpa bridge or the community where school children took turns to cross a stream or even the celebrated pictures of mourners carrying their dead on their head. These pains yielded that singular ecologically driven inaugural speech of the 9th Assembly by the Bende export. And community after community, the train of development is slowly but assuredly permeating that in the entire 13 wards of Bende, none has been left in the limbo of abandonment; something no matter how little is noticeable in these wards, a clear departure from the usual practice in Bende. Although I do not have his permission to say this but truth be told that certain highly and lowly placed individuals have asked Hon. Kalu if he is averse to money making leading to a jocularly but funny jab from a colleague that he is the poorest House member in the 9th Assembly. I am in no position to verify if he is the poorest among his peers but the now popular exclamation or is it admonition of ‘arutu oru, eritu ihe’ interpreted to mean – ‘as we work, we also need to eat’ makes greater sense to all.
All of this shows that repeated Awards in recognition of his commitment to duty cannot be a fluke by any standard. They are verifiable and so for the Bende Tribal Chief, there is a connection between his people – driven performance and the litany of Awards he has garnered for 3 years. It is true that there is a bastardization of Awards in the polity but even the common man in the villages can no longer be fooled. They know and acknowledge the truth.
Recognition for serving the people is only a reminder that much more is expected from the recipient of these several awards. For a good soul, such recognition is better seen as a measure of pressure that is imminent. Hon. Benjamin Kalu’s continued performance is a tacit acceptance of the more pressures that he must attend to. He must not be tired but remain what he pledged to be – servant of the governed. It is only by this that the people will be willing to assign him greater responsibilities in higher offices.